It was a rarity to see Saul “Canelo” Alvarez fight at New York’s famous Madison Square Garden on December 15. His opponent came as an even greater surprise in the form of England’s Rocky Fielding, a man whose first name was very apt on the night. The only way that Fielding would pull off a win would have been in the movies, however, given the gulf in talent between himself and the Mexican.
Having fought two superb yet controversial bouts against Gennady Golovkin in 2017 and 2018, Canelo solidified himself as the number 1 fighter in the middleweight division. The last of those two bouts was a win for the 28-year-old and saw him unify the division in the process. Following two of the toughest tests he has faced in the ring, many argued that Canelo’s decision to fight Fielding for the super middleweight title was kind of justifiable.
Of course, Canelo could opt for another fight in the super middleweight division, too. There are certainly a few fighters at 168 pounds that could match up nicely with the Mexican, with Britain’s Callum Smith, fellow-countryman Gilberto Ramirez, or David Benavidez being the pick of the bunch. An all-Mexican Cinco de Mayo would be appealing to some, granted, but not everyone.
Canelo’s Year So Far
Alvarez signed the most lucrative sports contract in history this year with his $365 million deal with DAZN. The deal will see the boxing icon fight another 10 times over the course of five years, given that the first bout of the contract was satisfied against Fielding. Of course, DAZN will be looking for bigger fights than Alvarez’s Madison Square Garden fixture, the first fight contested outside of the West Coast in 10 years.
Fielding was never going to be the most competitive opponent that Canelo could have faced. The entire bout was in his favor from early on and his destruction of the Brit’s body by way of thunderous left hooks saw him hit the canvas four times. It took just three rounds before Fielding was done and Alvarez looked – at least to the uninitiated – like a monstrous knockout artist. Good business on DAZN’s part? You could argue that the matchup was not exactly arranged to be competitive but for other purposes.
This certainly looked as though it was a treat for Canelo fans. Those in attendance seemed content enough to see Fielding fed to their lion, embracing the destructive nature of the win as though it mattered. Except, this was not Golovkin, Jacobs, or Billy Joe Saunders that had been sacrificed, but a fighter in Fielding that was competing at British and European level not long ago.
Canelo’s Profile in Boxing
Saul “Canelo” Alvarez has been a fan favorite for quite some time. A fighter offered the biggest deal in sports history is hardly going to be anything other than commercially viable, but he certainly has a record that puts him among the best of his era. The other thing that Alvarez has on his side is relative youth, considering he is just 28-years-old. Beloved in his home country of Mexico and around the world, there is arguably no bigger name in boxing.
Canelo came to the wider boxing fanbase when he took on Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2013. While still green, he was expected to present “Money” with a difficult test. Although he was soundly beaten, Alvarez’s profile shot up massively. However, since that bout, Canelo’s status as Golden Boy’s cash cow has seen him accused of ducking fights and selecting weaker opponents to grow his stock.
Perhaps the most controversial occurrences of Canelo’s career all involve Golovkin, however. The Mexican was frequently accused of dodging the Kazakh knockout artist, even going as far as to relinquish his WBC middleweight title in 2016 in order to avoid the fight. Instead, Canelo fought Smith and Chavez, waiting until the following September to take on Golovkin in a fight that many believed should have ended in a win for his opponent.
What to Expect?
Canelo has had some big fights in his career, whatever way you want to look at it. Some have been gambles (Mayweather), although even a loss was a good result in the long term against boxing’s former pound-for-pound number 1. He has beaten the tough and durable Miguel Cotto, the former great Shane Mosley (even if he was over the hill), and has the two Golovkin fights as a win and a draw on his record.
His wins over Lara and Trout also go down as big fights. Considering that he is still in his twenties, Canelo has a lot of history to back up the sentiment that he is a big-fight boxer. With the DAZN deal, you can expect that things will not change in that regard. In modern-day boxing, the business side of things often rules.
Given that Canelo has world title wins in three weight classes, there are plenty of opportunities to pit him against top caliber boxers. While 2018 saw a vast improvement in the poor matchups of the preceding couple of years, for the most part, boxing fans will want to see things improve even further. Canelo’s deal gives us hope that we will get those big fights on a consistent basis from the world’s most high-profile pugilist.
The Next Opponent for Canelo
The stars appeared to be aligning for a middleweight clash between Canelo and the hard-hitting Canadian, David Lemieux, on May 4 in Las Vegas. The former champion, Lemieux, is not the most exciting opponent for Canelo and would go into the fight as a significant underdog against the Mexican. That being said, the bout would have sold well given that it would have fallen on Cinco De Mayo weekend.
Lemieux, like the two aforementioned fighters, would have been seen as a relatively easy night for Canelo. On one hand, no Mexican wants to see their international representative lose while Cinco De Mayo celebrations are going on, but on the other, the fight itself would not be one for the purists. Lemieux would not have exactly been a pushover, but it would not have been Canelo vs. Golovkin 3.
Lemieux – who was soundly beaten by Golovkin and Billy Joe Saunders – labored to a win over the relatively unknown Karim Achour in 2018 before knocking out the entertaining but outmatched “Spike” O’Sullivan in September. The last win, especially, would have justified Golden Boy drafting in the 29-year-old to be fed to their lion. Lemieux was set to fight on the undercard of the Canelo vs. Fielding bout but was pulled from the fight due to complications with his weight cut. Again.
So, How About Canelo vs. Lemieux at Super Middleweight?
It seems highly likely that Canelo’s next bout will be on May 4 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. I believe that Lemieux will be his opponent – but at super middleweight. The Canadian has a track record of missing weight or simply having complications with weight cuts that lead to cancellations of bouts. As such, he is not exactly the most reliable fighter that Golden Boy could choose for Canelo.
Prior to his failure to make weight on December 15, Lemieux would have been the favorite to fight Alvarez next. You have to consider that the extra eight pounds will give him a little bit of a buffer, however, and even if he does weigh in a few pounds above that, he might still get the shot without the chance to win the title. Which, let’s be honest, he has no chance of doing against Canelo anyway.
The Fights Boxing Fans Want for Canelo
Lemieux is not the matchup that the majority of fight fans want for Canelo. You can’t always get what you want, however, and no one of more accustomed to this adage than boxing enthusiasts. That said, the hope is that the DAZN deal will provide Canelo with the financial cushion to go out and take on the best of the best, and the push from the broadcaster to engage in the most interesting fights possible.
The Golovkin Trilogy
Right now, the biggest matchup for Canelo is the Golovkin trilogy. There are many fans who believe that Golovkin won at least one of those fights and was essentially robbed by the judges in Las Vegas on both occasions. The firm and undeniable facts are that the record books tell a different story and Canelo does not need to fight the aging Kazakh if he doesn’t want to.
Golovkin is currently in the process of negotiating a broadcast deal of his own. Until this happens, there is no viable way of seeing a trilogy fight going down before the latter stages of 2019. Unless, of course, he signs a deal with DAZN if they can assure him that he is at least two fights away from a trilogy bout. You have to imagine that GGG wants the third fight next, but will be unlikely to swing it by May.
Anything can happen, but I would put a bout with Lemieux at 168-pounds as far more likely to happen than a third fight with Golovkin at this point. Then again, there is another fight that might even make more sense…
OK, if we can’t have the Golovkin bout, then the obvious choice for Canelo’s next opponent has to be Daniel Jacobs. There is no doubt that he is at least the third best middleweight on the planet behind both Alvarez and Golovkin. In fact, prior to Canelo drawing and subsequently beating GGG, Jacobs pushed him the closest he had ever been to losing a fight. As such, this would be a tough, tough test for the champ and that’s what we want to see as fight fans, right?
As if the positives couldn’t get any more, erm, positive, British promoter Eddie Hearn – who also oversees the career of heavyweight superstar Anthony Joshua – is working with Jacobs. Hearn has good ties to DAZN and De La Hoya’s Golden Boy, which makes this as pretty smooth a deal as there is to make. Fans want it, Jacobs wants it, DAZN will surely want it, so we can only hope that Canelo and his team are as optimistic about making it happen.
If you watched Canelo’s bout with Fielding on December 3, you will have probably noticed Jacobs shaking hands with the Mexican after the fight. This is always a good sign that something is going down in boxing, so let’s hope that it is a good omen. Jacobs also told reporters that he is the ‘perfect candidate’ for Alvarez’s next opponent and wants to take him on around Cinco De Mayo in Las Vegas.
I would be lying to you if I were to say that there are two bigger fights for Canelo than Golovkin or Jacobs. You would be lying to yourself if you were to even entertain the idea that there are two better boxers out there to challenge the Irish-looking Mexican. As it stands, there are some pretty credible candidates that could excite fans, but with DAZN involved, the big names must be considered first.
Back at middleweight, Britain’s Billy Joe Saunders would be a nice matchup for the heavy hitting champ. Saunders made Lemieux look like an amateur in their WBO clash in December 2017 and has an unbeaten record in the ring. Jermall Charlo is another potential opponent, but is unlikely to stir up the excitement just yet. Demetrius Andrade, another unbeaten prospect, is a fighter that some would like to see enter the ring with Canelo.
All in all, there are options here for Alvarez. When it comes down to it, he is the golden ticket in boxing right now and is aware of the steady line of pretenders for his crown. Fans want big fights and there will be a collective disappointment should the 28-year-old decide to pluck another Rocky from obscurity, a la Apollo Creed (or should that simply read Canelo Alvarez?).
The big fight for Canelo is a third bout with Golovkin. However, that does not seem to be in the interest of the majority for the time being. As boxing fans, we have to accept when there is a discrepancy between the business and idealistic sides of the coin and move on. As such, the next best bout is Daniel Jacobs. Can that happen on May 4? It might seem unlikely, but let’s hope it does. It will be an incredible bout and one that the fans deserve.